Tagged: Psychiatry

The Global Skinner Box

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by Phillip D. Collins ©, June 9th, 2005

In recent years, physicalistic philosophies of the mind seem to dominate both the scientific and academic communities. This paradigm equates mental states with brain states, thus reducing the concept of the “soul” or “spirit” to a metaphysical fantasy. This view seems to pervade modern psychology as well. Ironically, the word “psychology” is derived from the word psyche, which meant “soul” in the original Greek. However, imposing the metaphysical doctrine of materialism upon psychology, Wilhelm Maximilian Wundt would expunge the soul from the halls of psychological research and enshrine the primacy of matter. Several years later, B.F. Skinner would continue the materialist-physicalist tradition of psychology. Dubbed behaviorism, Skinner’s brand of psychology emphasized observable behavior as the primary indicator of mental states. Working from this premise, Skinner developed a “technology of behavior” by which human nature could be conditioned and manipulated. Skinner believed that, as desirable behaviors were promulgated within the human herd, the ideal society would eventually emerge.

Skinner presented his psychologically engineered Utopia as a roman a’ clef entitled Walden Two. Characterizing Walden Two as an innocuous fiction, Skinner stated: “The ‘behavioral engineering’ I had so frequently mentioned in the book was, at the time, little more than science fiction” (vi). Yet, “behavioral conditioning” was much more than science fiction to dark forces with dark intentions. Thanks to a $5,000 grant from a group called the Human Ecology Fund, Skinner was able to pay for the secretary and supplies he needed during the writing of Beyond Freedom and Dignity (Marks 171). When approached about the grant and its origins, Skinner claimed to have no memory of the contribution (Marks 171). However, he did make the slightly suspicious comment: “I don’t like secret involvement of any kind. I can’t see why it couldn’t have been open and aboveboard” (Marks 171).

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The New Malleus Maleficarum: The DSM Reconsidered

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by Paul and Phillip Collins ©, May 27th, 2005

In 1486, the dominant ecclesiastical authority published The Malleus Maleficarum (translated: The Witch Hammer). Written by two Dominican Priests, this infamous text claimed to be an authoritative guidebook that could be used to identify practitioners of witchcraft. However, the book had more to do with snuffing out the Church’s competition than it did with recognizing witches. At the time, herbal healers had more success curing people with alternative methods than did the priests with highly stylized rituals. Under the pretext of delivering the world from evil, innovation and eccentricity were criminalized. The Malleus Maleficarum played no small role in the process.

Likewise, the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic Statistical Manual (DSM) has served a similar function in the marginalizing and, on occasion, incarceration of potential innovators. Now printed in four editions, the DSM is “the billing bible for mental disorders which commingles neurological diseases with psychiatric diagnoses” (O Meara, no pagination). While The Malleus Maleficarum stigmatized certain modes of thought and behavior as “witchcraft,” the DSM stigmatizes them as “disorders.” In an interview with OMNI magazine, R.D. Laing expands on the role of the DSM in marginalizing divergent paradigms:

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